Different feeling. Same result.
Tuesday, at what has become the Sharks' annual ousted-in-the-second-round debriefing day, the mood was decidedly mixed. The glow from epic Game 6 had faded, replaced by the cold reality that the team completed another season of falling short of the goal.
"It's strange to have pride and disappointment connected," general manager Doug Wilson said.
Unlike last year -- when frustration and anger were the predominant emotions -- this year's disappointment comes with pride. With heads held high. With knowing that the Sharks left everything they had on the ice in the final game.
But, still. Different feeling. Same result.
For the third consecutive season.
So this year, when Wilson talks about waiting until emotions die down before evaluating the season and making any big decisions, it isn't just frustration and anger that he needs to wait out. He also has to let the positive emotions from the team's tremendous four-overtime performance recede and not fog his vision.
Because as much as last year's flop against Detroit didn't take the full measure of the Sharks, this year's mad rush to stave off elimination beginning in the third period of Game 4 also doesn't tell an accurate story.
The general manager seems perfectly able to look at things with a clear eye. For all the talk in the locker room Tuesday about the Sharks playing their hearts out and battling, Wilson was the one guy who spoke the unvarnished truth.
"I admire our courage, heart, character," he said. "But we put ourselves in that hole."
And the hole is the place to start, not the digging out. It made for wonderful theater, watching the Sharks frantically try to excavate themselves from their self-made grave. But the reality is that the Sharks were maddeningly inconsistent throughout the playoffs.
"Of the 13 playoff games that we played, we played some very good games," Wilson said. "We didn't play enough good games."
That brings us to the other Wilson, Ron, who was in a testy mood Tuesday. Maybe that's because his job security is on the table now. Wilson-bashers have already started the drumbeat for his ouster.
He defended his record.
"We've achieved more since I've been here than any other team in the league," he said. "Except win the Stanley Cup. We should be rejoicing."
Hmm, I don't think so. Precious few teams that get bounced in the early rounds of the playoffs rejoice. Rejoicing happens in hockey only when you parade around with that big silver chalice and start making plans to bring it to your hometown's bowling alley. The Sharks want to be a big-time team, not a coddled California hobby. So no rejoicing at being ousted by a lower seed, no matter how cool the last game was.
The Sharks have definitely achieved a lot in Ron Wilson's tenure. But this is a league that changes coaches more often than its players change their Under Armour. Wilson has been around five years -- an eternity in hockey. He is the seventh-longest-tenured coach in the league. The team promotes itself as a Stanley Cup contender every year.
But it has never made it past the conference finals, and it has been four years since the Sharks reached that round, with a weaker team.
Overall, the Sharks made a step. But, at the end of the season, they're standing in exactly the same place.